What’s Hot in London: March 11–17

London News   What’s Hot in London: March 11–17
How did critics review two stage classics, and who topped the Olivier nominations?
What’s Hot in London
What’s Hot in London

Olivier Awards 2017: Nominations and Omissions
The nominations for the 2017 Olivier Awards were announced March 6. Unlike previous years, which were dominated by subsidized venues like the National, Royal Court, Donmar and Almeida Theatres, commercial productions lead the rankings this year. According to a tally in The Stage, there were 54 nominations for commercially produced shows, versus just 14 for subsidized shows.

Olivier Awards

The National received seven nominations, spread across five productions, while the Donmar garnered two—both for Best New Play. The Almeida, Royal Court and RSC, who between them produced 28 new shows over the course of the year, failed to secure a nomination.

Sonia Friedman—now arguably Britain’s most prolific and powerful theatre producer—and her company picked up a record 31 nominations across six productions. The nominations include 11 for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, which received the most nods that a new play has ever received, five for Dreamgirls, and the rest for transfers of shows from the Menier Chocolate Factory—Funny Girl and Travesties—as well as the U.S.: Nice Fish and John Tiffany’s 2013 Broadway staging of The Glass Menagerie starring Cherry Jones, who was nominated for Best Actress in her London stage debut.

Also notable were the Broadway-bound Groundhog Day, which lead the musical lists with eight nominations, as well as nominations for three Andrew Lloyd Webber musicals: Jesus Christ Superstar, returning this summer to Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre; School of Rock The Musical, imported from Broadway to the New London Theatre; and Sunset Boulevard, now on Broadway at the Palace Theatre.

Unlike the Tony Awards, for which nominations are decided by an impartial, separately appointed nominations committee who have to recuse themselves if they have any connections to possible nominees, voting for Olivier nominations is open to all members of the Society of London Theatre. The members also then vote the winners as well. Also differently to the Tonys, there is no requirement for producers to invite all voters, so not all potential nominees are seen by the full voting panels.

Verdict: Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead

Rosencrantz_and_Guildenstern_Are_Dead_Production_Photo_London_Old_Vic_2017_Daniel Radcliffe (Rosencrantz) and Joshua McGuire (Guildenstern) in Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead at The Old Vic. Photos by Manuel Harlan_HR.jpg
Daniel Radcliffe and Joshua McGuire Manuel Harlan

Tom Stoppard’s debut full-length play Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead received its professional London premiere exactly 50 years ago at the Old Vic, presented under the auspices of the National Theatre Company. It has now returned to the same London theatre in a new production directed by David Leveaux, starring Daniel Radcliffe and Joshua McGuire in the title roles, and has been an acclaimed hit all over again.

In the Daily Telegraph, Dominic Cavendish says: “Still flushed with the irreverence, dash and daring of youth, or past it and staggering onwards to meet its quietus? That brain-boxy Hamlet spin-off Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead has hit the big 5-0.... But the big question for a critic—up there with “To be or not to be?“—must be: are we genuflecting out of duty, or genuine pleasure?” He then says: “It’s a hand on heart relief to report that David Leveaux’s revival argues the case for it as compellingly and persuasively as I think its author could wish.”

In The Guardian, veteran critic Michael Billington says: “The play’s the thing. Fifty years after its professional premiere at this very theatre, Tom Stoppard’s philosophical comedy still shines brightly.” He adds, “It helps that this revival stars Daniel Radcliffe, who is perfectly matched by Joshua McGuire, and that David Leveaux’s production is nimble and inventive. But it is the wit of the young Stoppard that keeps the play fresh and alive.”

The Daily Mail’s Quentin Letts writes: “I have seen this play only four times—and once studied it for exams—and therefore still have some way to go before I work out what the blazes Stoppard is on about for much of the first half.”

Meanwhile, the Menier Chocolate Factory production of Stoppard’s third major hit, Travesties, is also currently playing on the West End at the Apollo Theatre.

Scroll through production photos of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead below:

Verdict: Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

Imelda Staunton Jonathan Persson

Another 60s classic, Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?—which originally premiered on Broadway in 1962 and has since had three Broadway revivals—is revived on the West End at the Harold Pinter Theatre. Leading the cast are Conleth Hill and Imelda Staunton as George and Martha, with Luke Treadaway and Imogen Poots as the couple they invite to their home.

Early verdicts include four five-star reviews from The Guardian, Telegraph, The Independent, and The Stage.

In The Guardian, Michael Billington writes: “This is one of those rare occasions when play, performance and production perfectly coalesce. Imelda Staunton, having portrayed one of the sacred monsters of the American musical in Gypsy, now brilliantly embodies Edward Albee’s campus Medusa in the shape of Martha. Conleth Hill matches her every inch of the way as her seemingly ineffectual husband, George. Watching the two of them pummel each other senseless in a three-hour verbal slugfest may be exhausting but is ultimately uplifting and cathartic.”

In The Independent, Paul Taylor writes: “Imelda Staunton is all of five feet but her performance as Martha—one of the greatest feats of acting I have witnessed—is “immense”, to use one of those buzz terms that aren’t always proportionate to the actual achievement.” He goes on to say: “She shimmies and bounces tummies and seems to have more balls than a pawnbroker’s sign. She breaks your heart because she’s juicy, akin to Momma Rose, her last part: she’ll go to the end of the road. Except that here her objective is not to get a contract on the music hall circuit. It’s to get her husband to look at her. Staunton makes you ache to think how furiously she must, as a girl, to have had to cartwheel in order to attract the attention of Daddy. Everything is comin’ up roses. She’s a loud vortex of voraciousness.”

In the Daily Telegraph, Dominic Cavendish says: “Coming after Sweeney Todd’s Mrs Lovett and Gypsy’s “Mama“ Rose, both equally sensational, the actress applies a musical-theatre stamina to this no-let-up role. Whether it’s a machine-gun ha-ha-ha or sustained yowl of despair, she doesn’t miss a vocal beat.”

Production and casting news

Mikhail Baryshnikov is set to appear briefly on the West End when he brings his one-man show Brodsky/Baryshnikov, based on the poems of Nobel laureate Joseph Brodsky, to the Apollo Theatre for four nights May 3-6.

Sharon D Clarke and Lauren Ward will star in the revival of Jeanine Tesori and Tony Kushner’s Caroline, or Change—previously seen in the U.K in a transfer of the Broadway production—that will play at Chichester’s Minerva Theatre from May 6.

The biannual Manchester International Festival, which will run in the Northern powerhouse city from June 29 to July 16, has announced its program. It will include Cotton Panic, an industrial music drama that tells the story of the North of England’s role in the American Civil War in 1861, when the workers of Lancashire refused to break the embargo on cotton from the Confederate slave states; as well as Fatherland, created by Frantic Assembly’s Scott Graham, Karl Hyde from Underworld, and playwright Simon Stephens, focusing on contemporary fatherhood and inspired by conversations with real fathers and sons across England.

For further news…

Stay tuned to Playbill.com and follow me on Twitter @shentonstage, for rolling news updates as they happen.


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